Pakistan upping its ante over the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir reflects its desperation to internationalise what is essentially an internal matter of India. Islamabad must realise that its decision to downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India will have no consequences whatsoever. By expelling Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and discontinuing the Samjhauta express service, the Imran Khan government is only trying to project an alarmist picture about the bilateral ties. Except for satisfying the domestic constituents and further fuelling anti-India hatred, these misguided retaliatory measures will not serve any purpose. The Rawalpindi military bosses, who have a vested interest in keeping the Kashmir pot boiling, are misguiding the civilian administration in this matter. India would do well to ignore the empty threats. Not just India but the international community too expects Islamabad to take demonstrable and irreversible action against terrorist groups operating on its soil. Downgrading diplomatic relations is of no consequence because the bilateral ties stand frozen as of now. There is no scope for resumption of composite dialogue since New Delhi has already made it clear that terror and talks cannot go together. This is not the first time that India and Pakistan are downgrading ties. In 2001, India pulled out Vijay Nambiar, its High Commissioner to Islamabad, after the JeM attack on Parliament. Pakistan reciprocated by pulling out its High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi. Full diplomatic relations were resumed in 2003. Both the countries also decided to downgrade the strength of their respective missions to 51, half of the full strength.
Similarly, suspension of bilateral trade will have no impact on India. The India-Pakistan official bilateral trade is worth about $2 billion. According to a recent report by ICRIER, it fell after the Uri attack, recovering a little to slump again due to the 200% duty imposed on imports from Pakistan after the Pulwama attack. Pakistan’s position on Kashmir finds no traction among the global community. Most countries have either not responded or called it India’s internal matter. Even Pakistan’s all-weather friend China has counselled restraint for both the countries on the Kashmir issue. Significantly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) backed India’s stand. Islamabad must realise that ending of special status to Jammu and Kashmir is an internal affair of India aimed at bringing developmental opportunities to the people there. All these decades, Pakistan had exploited the lack of developmental opportunities in the Valley to generate disaffection and to justify its cross-border terrorism. It has, over the past decades, used terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The Constitution of India has been and will always be a sovereign matter. Pakistan’s attempts to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.